Jackie Oates: The Joy of Living review – moody and affecting

(ECC)

An album so wintry – the seventh from the English singer – makes an odd fit for high summer, but it’s a contradictory affair throughout, mixing songs that mourn Oates’s late father with others celebrating the birth of her daughter. John Lennon’s primal Mother is a brave cover choice, but Oates’s unaffected delivery, set to a sparse drone, lives up to the song’s harrowing demands. Elsewhere, the West Country singer tumbles through Edwardian lullabies and playground chants, Darwin Deez’s Constellations (given a girl choir), and traditional songs shared with her father – Bill Caddick’s Unicorns; Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come All Ye.

The last is a lush piece of chamber folk with a stellar accompanying cast, but much of the album is spartan – voice, piano or guitar – recorded at home by producer and accomplice Simon Richmond, who understands ambience and knows when to leave a downbeat piece like Spring Is Coming Soon alone. The title track, by Ewan MacColl, is a bracing celebration of wild peaks and hills, being “drunk on air”. The varied material and Oates’s unfussy, melodic vocals pull us between sorrow and delight. A personal, affecting collection.

Watch Jackie Oates performing Freedom Come All Ye.

Contributor

Neil Spencer

The GuardianTramp

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